Reptilia Toronto

Plans for a reptile zoo in Toronto scrapped due to safety and animal welfare concerns

Plans for a massive reptile zoo at Toronto's harbourfront appear to be quashed.

Reptilia, the reptile zoo with locations in Vaughan and Whitby, had hoped to bring a collection of frogs, snakes, alligators, crocodiles, spiders, turtles, lizards and more creatures not seen at other zoos to 245 Queens Quay W., between Spadina and Lower Simcoe.

The location near Harbourfront Centre, CN Tower, Rogers Centre and Ripley's Aquarium seemed ideal for tourism, but several animal rights organizations opposed the plan.

Reptilia required an exemption from the city's Animals Bylaw, which prohibits alligators, crocodiles, lizards over two metres long and snakes over three metres long.

Several people brought their concerns to a recent City Council meeting.

Glenn De Baeremaeker of Zoocheck Canada argued that no public consultation was done, that the city doesn't have the capacity for oversight, and that the approval could undermine the city’s reputation as a national leader in protecting the welfare of animals.

"Providing an exemption creates a case for other exotic animal businesses and institutions to also seek exemptions," Baeremaeker wrote.

Baeremaeker also argued that the Toronto Zoo could be financially impacted and that the Toronto Zoo already offers a range of reptile species for viewing and education in a non-commercial setting.

Other people opposed had concerns about safety.

Zoologist Ronald Orenstein wrote "exotic reptiles are well known sources of salmonella and other diseases."

Director of Canadian Wildlife Campaigns, International Fund for Animal Welfare, Sheryl Fink, said: "The exotic pet trade – which is directly and indirectly supported by commercial enterprises such as Reptilia – is widely accepted as being a threat to wild animal populations, disruptive to natural ecosystems, a risk to native wildlife populations wherever non-native exotic pets are kept, and poses an infectious disease threat to human health and safety."

There were those in favour of the zoo, too. The York Quay Neighbourhood Association expressed strong support in a letter to council.

In a presentation to council, Reptilia said their animals receive the highest standard of care, come from rescues and are not removed from the wild, and that the zoo has a zero-tolerance policy for abuse.

For those with concerns about snakes or other reptiles escaping, Reptilia is confident that won't happen.

"Since opening, Reptilia has never had an animal escape," the zoo said. "We ensure to continue this by always improving our policies and training. All exhibits are checked daily by staff to ensure the animal can't escape."

Toronto City Council rejected the exemption but Pedro Funes, general manager for Reptilia Inc. tells blogTO the decision made with incorrect information about reptiles.

"Reptilia will appeal the decision and aim to provide further objective information and reasoning to demonstrate our case for our reptiles," Funes says. "Our hope is, as always, that we can educate and encourage the acceptance and conservation of reptiles, just as any other animals."

This story was updated with a comment from Reptilia.

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